Overview of 2012 Fulton County Races: Sheriff, Court Clerk, DA
(APN) ATLANTA — There are a number of races on the July 31 Partisan Primary Election and Non-partisan General Election ballot involving elected positions at the Fulton County level.
These races include Primary Elections for District Attorney for Atlanta Judicial Circuit, Clerk of Fulton County Superior Court, Fulton County Sheriff, Fulton County Tax Commissioner, Solicitor-General for State Court of Fulton County, and Surveyor.
These races also include Non-partisan General Elections for a number of judge positions including Fulton County Superior Court, State Court of Fulton County, and Probate Judge.
Furthermore, all Fulton County voters will weigh in on whether Fulton County should be allowed to permit Sunday alcohol sales in unincorporated Fulton County. Numerous cities that comprise Fulton County, including Atlanta, have already approved similar referendums.
This article will review some of those races including District Attorney for Atlanta Judicial Circuit, Clerk of Fulton County Superior Court, and Fulton County Sheriff.
Previously, APN has provided an overview of other races including US House, State House and Senate, Georgia Public Service Commission, Supreme Court of Georgia, Court of Appeals of Georgia, and the T-SPLOST. To date, APN has also provided in-depth coverage of the Democratic Primaries for US House District 5; and State House Districts 53, 56, 57, 58, 59, 62, and 63; in addition to the T-SPLOST.
Forthcoming will be another APN article on races for Tax Commissioner, Solicitor-General for State Court of Fulton County, and Surveyor, and various judicial races.
Paul Howard, the incumbent, is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination and in the General Election.
CLERK OF SUPERIOR COURT
Cathelene “Tina” Robinson, the incumbent, has three opponents for the Democratic nomination, including Boyd Chisholm, Rodney Fowler, and Lewis Pittman, all three who have also worked in the Clerk’s office. The winner of the Democratic nomination will face no opposition in the General Election in November.
Chisholm is a former union leader who previously worked for the Clerk’s Office for six years before leaving in January 2012. He wants to do a better job of directing customers to where they need to go to get information, and also of helping former criminals expunge their records, so that they may have a better chance of gaining employment, according to a video interview with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He did not have a phone number listed on his website.
Rodney Fowler has worked for fourteen years in the Clerk’s Office and is on leave of absence as Court Docket Supervisor. Lately, Fowler has been a friendly face sitting at the customer service desk in the Civil Docket room.
“We have to change our processes and become more customer-focused,” he told APN.
Fowler also wants to be more accessible and visible. “You have to go through so many channels to get to the clerk.”
“I’m really running to protect our employees – none of our employees are protected by the County anymore,” Fowler said, referring to a recent change sought by Clerk Robinson to unclassify many positions in the Clerk’s office. “You [Robinson] would unclassify all of your positions so you have the power to terminate.”
Fowler laments that images of case documents are still not available online, noting that there have been no major improvements over the last six years while Robinson has been in office.
“You should be able to look at your case at home – whether you’re a pro se or an attorney. What you have [online] now is a shell of a docket – we need to have images – she’s been working there six years. We still don’t have it,” Fowler said.
Fowler wants to create a one-stop shop where all documents will be immediately scanned into the docket, rather than have to change hands numerous times before being scanned in. He also wants to create a call center, where people will be able to answer questions about everything the Clerk’s Office does; currently, it is basically impossible to call and get someone on the phone.
Fowler also wants to extend the Clerk’s Office hours into evening hours.
“It’s all about you – I want people to feel comfortable enough to come into the office. I want citizens to feel like hey, this is a great office to come to. When you walk into a room, you want to see a smile, hi, I’m Rodney Fowler how can I help you, you don’t want someone looking at you, and they looking like they mad,” he said.
Lewis Pittman also previously worked for the Clerk’s Office. He did not have a phone number listed on his website.
Atlanta Progressive News recently had an issue at the Superior Court involving a sign in the Deed Room listing the incorrect amounts for photocopying costs. APN sent an email to Clerk Robinson requesting an opportunity to discuss the issue, but did not find her to be responsive.
Theodore “Ted” Jackson, the incumbent, has four opponents for the Democratic nomination, including Frank Brown, Curtis Farmer, Richard Lankford, and Charles Shelton. The winner of the Democratic nomination will face no opposition in the General Election in November.
Jackson has served as Sheriff since 2008, and as Interim Sheriff before that since 2004. He made news earlier this year when he issued a letter in opposition to SB 469, legislation that was later defeated which would have initially turned civil disobedience into a felony.
Richard Lankford, one of Jackson’s challengers, is a former Sheriff; he was elected Sheriff of Fulton County in 1985, becoming the first Black sheriff to serve anywhere in the State of Georgia.
Lankford was convicted in 1990 on two counts of extortion and two counts of filing false income tax returns. The charges are related to payments Lankford received from a vendor who provided catering services for Fulton County jail; as well as a separate payment Lankford received but failed to disclose on his federal income tax returns.
In 1992, the US Court of Appeals reversed the convictions and remanded the case for a new trial because the trial court had erroneously refused to allow cross-examination of a key government witness and had refused to allow Lankford to testify regarding his understanding as to the undisclosed gift, according to court records reviewed by APN in US v. Lankford.
According to Lankford, he made an agreement with prosecutors in exchange for them dropping the case.
“The agreement was that I would not seek certification or recertification as a peace officer in Georgia,” Lankford noted, adding that he has not had to seek recertification because his previous certification was automatically reinstated.
“Some people have said, have you gone back on your word? If you’re convicted, your certification is revoked. If your conviction is overturned, your certification is reinstated by operation of law,” Lankford told APN.
Lankford says that current employees of the Sheriff’s office asked him to get into the race because of what they perceive to be unnecessary investigations by Sheriff Jackson into alleged misconduct by various officers, including reinvestigation of old matters. Lankford said this is having an impact on morale.
“Quite honestly I could have stayed in retirement very easily. I was asked to run by members of the Sheriff’s Department. I’ve been on pension since 1992 – I could’ve easily stayed on pension,” he said.
Frank Brown has served as Chief of Police of East Point since 1996. He wants to reduce overcrowding in Fulton County jail by focusing on incarcerating serious and violent offenders, while focusing on alternatives to incarceration for non-serious and non-violent offenders, according to his website. He wants to secure grants to focus on re-entry services, and wants to reduce racial disparities in inmate populations. Brown does not have a phone number on his website.
Curtis Farmer has worked for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office for twenty-four years, having joined as Deputy Sheriff in 1988, according to his website. His most recent position is Sgt. Deputy Sheriff, although he’s on leave to run for office.
Unlike Brown, Farmer does not agree with the “smart on crime” slogan and wants to “hold people accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Farmer is concerned about too many cases being heard by Magistrate judges–who in Fulton County are unelected–because not enough cases are being heard by Superior and State Court judges.
“I want to go to the General Assembly and have them rewrite the Constitution of Georgia, holding judges accountable for seeing more cases. Magistrate judges are returning these people to the community because of lack of jail space. You got to get the Superior and State court judges more active so there can be more turnover,” Farmer told APN.
Charles Shelton has over thirty years of various law enforcement experience. His website, however, has very little information and no contact number.